News Release

Beyond Burr: No Dark Money with Bailouts

ProPublica reports: “Senator Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness.” Bloomberg reports: “U.S. Senators Sold Stock After Coronavirus Briefings in January.”

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is a leading scholar on money in politics — author of Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems and many essays. He is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and senior fellow at Better Markets.

He warns that public money must not set up a vicious cycle of public bamboozlement and profits for politicians.

Ferguson commented: “The news that U.S. senators, including the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, were saying one thing in public and doing another after receiving confidential briefings on the coronavirus is both a vivid reminder and a warning. It’s a reminder, because the evidence that the U.S. is a money-driven political system is overwhelming.

“But it’s also a warning. Right now the U.S. government is laying plans for sweeping bailouts of individual firms and sometimes whole industries. Any such bailouts need stringent regulations about disclosure. Firstly, if we, the people, are not to finance our own bamboozlement, any company receiving bailout money must be required to file at the end of each month full reports on political contributions and lobbying expenditures to candidates and parties. So-called ‘Dark Money’ funneled through fake charities should not be exempted from those requirements nor should ‘527’ funds. Firm and top executives’ contributions to trade associations and other groups that lobby or make political expenditures of their own must also be disclosed. Donations to think tanks and ‘gifts’ from corporate foundations, which we now know are often politically motivated, also need disclosure. Not only money from the companies, but contributions of their executives and PACs need to be included in these reports.

“We cannot set up a closed loop in which voters and taxpayers subsidize companies and then those companies recycle some of the funds back into Congress and the political system and political parties. And it’s high time to put some teeth in the Stock Act, that supposedly stopped individual representatives from engaging in such disgraceful practices.”

Ferguson just co-wrote the piece “Coronavirus Means Zero Hour for the European Union” which cautions against German banks aggravating the pandemic in Italy.

He emphasizes that his views are his own and not that of any institution he is affiliated with.